Ximian Takes Evolutionary Step ForwardBy Jason Brooks | Print
Evolution 1.5, a development release of the popular Linux mail and calendaring client, exhibits an improved interface, better calendar handling and built-in support for spam blocking.
This month's release of Evolution 1.5 provides an early look at what's set to change when Ximian Inc.'s popular e-mail and calendar application for Linux reaches its major Version 2.0 update in March.
Evolution 1.5 is a development release intended for testing and bug hunting. In eWEEK Labs' tests, we found the development label an apt one—this version is currently far too crash-prone to supplant Evolution's stable 1.4.5 version for regular use.
However, we appreciate the changes the Evolution team has made, probably the most welcome of which is built-in spam-blocking support, courtesy of SpamAssassin.
We've used SpamAssassin with the current version of Evolution to single out junk mail with a custom message filter, but this requires extra configuration steps that aren't necessary with Version 1.5. In addition, now that it's easy for users to label messages as "Junk" or "Not Junk" from within the interface, Evolution allows users to train their spam filters.
Evolution takes cues from Outlook
Evolution 1.5 shows off an overhauled appearance that continues to take pages from the design of Microsoft Corp.'s Outlook. Evolution has done away with its shortcut and folder bars for choosing among the program's e-mail, calendar, task and contact modules. Instead, as in Outlook 2003, there are buttons for these modules at the lower left corner of the program window.
We'd like to see the Evolution team extend its Outlook flattery by offering the option of viewing folders, message headers and preview text in the same three-column view that Outlook 2003 does. This would enable end users to more efficiently read e-mail.
We'd also like to see Evolution adopt tabs in its interface, with messages, program modules and folder views organized in tabs, as in Mozilla, or with multiple chat windows, as in Gaim.
Evolution's summary page, which in the 1.4.5 version combines things such as mail counts and RSS (RDF Site Summary) feed headlines, was nowhere to be found. RSS headline-grabbing is a nice feature to have, but we'd rather see RSS handling built more tightly into the application. If Evolution isn't going to tackle RSS in this way, perhaps it's better left out altogether.
We were impressed with Evolution's updated calendar module, which supports multiple calendars, stored both locally and on the network or Internet. We could select or unselect the calendars we set up, overlaying sets of appointments onto the same calendar. Task lists work the same way, except that we could only store tasks locally.
Evolution still lacks support for notes or memo items, such as those used in Outlook or on Palm handheld devices, which can be a problem when synchronizing a handheld device with Evolution.
There's no version of Ximian Connector—the proprietary software that enables Evolution to access Microsoft Exchange groupware data—available for Evolution 1.5, so there's no telling what improvement, if any, has occurred with the connector.
Evolution 1.5 handles IMAP accounts in offline mode better than the 1.4.5 version. We'd love to see some progress along these lines with Exchange accounts, which don't work offline at all with the current version of the connector.
The source code for Evolution 1.5 is available for download at www.gnome.org/projects/evolution, and the application may be compiled on any platform the GNOME desktop supports.
For an easier installation, there are precompiled, packaged binaries for SuSE Linux AG's SuSE Linux 8.2 and 9 and for Red Hat Inc.'s Red Hat Linux 9 available for download through that site or through Ximian's Red Carpet service.
Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.